The first thing you see when you open the latest social media app, Snapchat, is your own face looking back at you, and a bunch of inscrutable buttons. At this point the urge is strong to shut the thing down and delete it forever, and many do. Snapchat use among the over 25 crowd is scant. But for the younger generation, Snapchat’s popularity is growing, and social media consultant Hilary Morris says that business owners would be wise to get on board.
Morris will give a presentation on Snapchat at the next meeting of the CoffeeTalk networking group on Friday, June 3, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Mrs. G, 2720 Business Route 1 in Lawrence. She will be joined by Veronique Cardon, author of “The Cogni Diet,” who will lead a workshop on strategic planning. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit www.coffeetalknj.com.
Despite its bewildering appearance, Snapchat is a very simple social networking and messaging app. It allows users to send each other pictures and videos that can only be viewed by the recipient for a few seconds, at which point they are deleted forever (unless the recipient decides to take a screenshot.)
When you take a Snapchat picture or video, before sending it out into the world you can make a caption, which appears over top of the photo or video, doodle on it, add emojis, or use one of several creepy looking filters that give the photo subject dog ears or add funhouse mirror distortion to the photo.
More relevant for businesses than one-on-one messaging is Snapchat’s stories feature, which allows users to post “stories” for friends to view, consisting of a series of pictures and videos. Although the stories can be viewed multiple times, they too disappear after 24 hours.
The ephemeral nature of snapchat posts has a number of effects. It means that when you log on to Snapchat, you never see old content. Snapchat has a sense of immediacy, even more so than other social platforms. On the flip side, it means that if you want anyone to see your stuff, you have to create Snapchats at an exhausting, nearly manic pace.
To be an active Snapchat user means constantly being glued to your phone, making multiple posts a day, and teens love it. According to Mashable, the technology news website, Snapchat boasts 100 million active users, who post 400 million snaps every day. Most of those users are age 13 to 24.
“There are only going to be more and more people using it,” Morris says. “Whether or not your audience or your current customers are on Snapchat, it’s a good idea to get familiar with how to use it.”
Morris says there are several compelling reasons for businesses to be on Snapchat. First, anyone doing business with a younger age group, such as a youth-oriented clothing store, should be using it to market to their customers. Secondly, she compared the app’s popularity to Facebook around 2004. At that point, Facebook was just for college students, and most adults saw it as a way for kids to waste time and post party pictures. But before long, even those cynical baby boomers were using Facebook to get Olive Garden coupons and post memes claiming Obama is a secret Muslim. Companies that got familiar with Facebook early had an advantage when using the platform to market themselves. It’s possible that Snapchat too could follow the same trajectory from fun teen hangout to an integral part of American life.
So how do businesses use a platform that demands a relentless stream of content? Morris says there are several ways to use it, and that several local companies are already using it.
One of the most prolific Route 1-area companies using Snapchat is the Trenton Thunder. Look at the Trenton Thunder’s snapchat account on any given day, and you will see pictures of its adorable bat dog, short videos from the day’s game, players goofing around in the locker room, and mascots playing catch with visiting kids. Since videos are limited to 10 seconds at most, you won’t see live broadcast of games, extended interviews, or anything that would exhaust the attention span of a hyperactive 14-year-old.
How is such a stream of banalities helpful? Morris explains: “Snapchat is an opportunity for a business or a brand to show its human side or inner workings,” she said. “It also allows you to have a lot more fun.” Since the Trenton Thunder’s entire purpose is to entertain crowds, it’s easy to see how goofy snapchat videos increase its appeal. Morris said retailers have been using Snapchat to make “flash” sales. Have a shirt lying around your store that you want to sell? Make a video of it, with the price, and sell it to the first person to reply.
Other businesses could use it to create how-to instructions on something, or a chef making a dish. A more serious business like a law firm could do quick Q&As with a lawyer.
Morris, who runs her own public relations firm from her Montgomery home, manages Snapchat content for several local businesses in addition to a personal account. Each morning she posts an “outfit of the day,” and then follows up with vignettes from her day, often focusing on her daughters. Morris, whose mother was a librarian, started spent seven years teaching middle school math before taking up event planning, running a college alumni association, and beginning a career in PR.
Morris started to take the app seriously last year when she read a Yelp review of one of her clients’ restaurants, where a college student said he had heard about it on Yik-Yak (another messaging app) and decided to give it a try. Once on Yik-Yak, Morris saw that most of its users were also posting Snapchat messages. “The fact that the Witherspoon Grill came up on an app that Millennials use gave me reason to consider Snapchat a bit more seriously,” she said.
Is Snapchat here to stay, or will it disappear into the ether like so many selfies? Morris is banking on the former, just in case. She also found that even though she is barely out of the Millennial age bracket herself, Snapchat became enjoyable after getting over the hurdle of learning its opaque interface. “It’s like a fun extra,” she says. “It’s not going to replace anything, but it allows a brand to be more authentic and show more of its human side. It’s like the extras on a DVD.”